Northwestern seeking playoff revenge against Syracuse

By Andrew Neville

Northwestern lacrosse will get its shot at revenge Thursday. 

With a spot in the semifinals on the line, the Lakeshow will host Syracuse, the team which eliminated the Wildcats from the postseason in 2021, at 4 p.m. at Martin Stadium. 

Here are some things to note heading into the contest:

History: Northwestern and Syracuse have seen a lot of one another over the past few years. Northwestern leads the overall series 15-7, including a 4-1 advantage in NCAA tournament games. However, the series has been neck and neck recently, with the teams splitting the past eight matchups dating back to 2015.

The Orange got the best of Northwestern in last season’s tournament, winning 16-11 in their semifinal matchup. The Wildcats were able to wipe away some of that bitter taste earlier this season, however, defeating Syracuse in overtime 16-15 in a game that saw Northwestern storm back from down three goals in the final 3:24 of regulation.

Despite the extensive history, Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller knows she can’t rely on the past too much heading into this contest.

“They’re a different team now, we’re a different team now,” Amonte Hiller said on Wednesday. “We know it’s gonna be a battle and any team at this point is a battle so we’re just gonna go out there and fight as hard as we can.”

Battle For The Draw Control Circle: Northwestern dominated the draw control battle in each of its first two NCAA tournament contests, besting Central Michigan and Michigan in the circle by a combined total of 55-15. Northwestern leads the NCAA in draw controls per game, and Jill Girardi ranks second in the country individually in that same statistic.

Despite these gaudy numbers, it is not a foregone conclusion that the Wildcats will own the circle against the Orange. The Orange’s Katelyn Mashewske has racked up a whopping 173 draw controls over the course of the season, second best in the country, and the team sits just three spots below Northwestern in draw controls per game.

In their earlier matchup this season, Northwestern prevailed in the circle 21-14, an effort they will be looking to replicate this time around. Do not be surprised if the team that wins the draw control battle ends up advancing to Baltimore.

Home Cooking: Getting the number four overall seed in the NCAA tournament was gigantic for Northwestern since it gave them home-field advantage through the quarterfinals. The Wildcats are a different team when playing in Evanston, especially in the NCAA tournament. 

Northwestern has won 20 consecutive home games dating back to March 9, 2020, when the ‘Cats were bested by North Carolina right before the sports world shut down due to the pandemic. In the NCAA tournament, the ‘Cats on home turf are an even more formidable foe, having won 28 consecutive home NCAA tournament games since 2004, including their two victoires last weekend.

“We have familiar circumstances here,” Coach Amonte Hiller said. “We just want to go out there and defend our field, defend our fans and this university.”

Tune in for all the action right here on WNUR Sports!

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